By Chad Ingram
"Any change is better than doing nothing” the county’s planning director said last week as councillors grappled with choosing a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target that will help lay the groundwork for the county’s climate change mitigation plan.
And that’s really the takeaway when it comes to climate change work the county is embarking on: Doing something is better than doing nothing. The journey of a mile begins with a single step. Nobody is expecting at least I don’t believe for the county to be transformed into a solar-and-wind-powered community where municipal staff zip around in electric vehicles. At least not any time in the near future.
It’s about making meaningful but affordable and reasonable changes in operations and facilities that will help to shrink the county’s carbon footprint over time. This may mean purchasing hybrid vehicles instead of traditionally fuelled ones when replacing fleet vehicles. It may mean environmentally friendly retrofits to buildings when it’s time for them to be renovated or updated. As was mentioned by the county’s new climate change co-ordinator last week it may mean something as simple as mitigating the amount of time county roads department vehicles are left idling.
Councillors eventually settled on an emissions reduction target of 15 per cent by 2030. That’s for corporately produced emissions at the upper-tier level: the amount of emissions actually produced by the corporation of the County of Haliburton itself. There was indication that some councillors felt they were picking an arbitrary number unclear of what the cost or budget implications of achieving that target might be. The plan works in such a way that targets are set then plans to achieve them are laid out.
But these targets are not written in stone. There is no legal requirement to meet them. They are meant as an achievable aspiration. It’s about embarking on a path creating a culture of changed corporate behaviour that will reduce emissions over time. It’s about building that way of thinking into the way municipalities do business.
Next month each of the lower-tier councils will be visited by the climate change co-ordinator each setting reduction targets for their own municipalities. When it comes to municipal greenhouse gas emissions in the county as a whole the vast majority – more than 77 per cent – come from solid waste; landfills.
Landfills in the county are owned and operated by the lower-tier governments so it seems pretty clear that reaching their reduction targets will include re-examining landfill operations. The landfills may belong to the townships but the waste they contain is all of ours. In this way each and every one of us can help reduce the carbon footprint of local landfills with our consumer habits and household practices such as purchasing fewer products with plastic packaging composting at home and ensuring that items that are still usable find a new home rather than being tossed in the trash.